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PopMatters Music Short Takes
our brief reviews of new releases
05 July 2006
Feathers, Feathers (Gnomonsong)
"What's that sparkling light out in the yard honey?" Cover your eyes for a second and you'll miss Feathers emerging from Nowheresville with a hobo stick and a half busted guitar. Epitomizing the drifter lot with predictable traces of ethereality, and with a surprising amount of substance, this band of nouveau hippies effectively preys upon the wanderlust mystique in psych folk music. Shimmering, beguiling harmonies layered over murmuring guitars with tribal drums kicking up the dust behind a patchwork of harp, sitar, violin, banjo, and chirping birds. Recorded in co-founder Kyle Thomas's bedroom in Vermont by eight likeminded longhairs, this debut recording definitely carries with it a hush of intimacy and a playful looseness. Laid down on an old 1/4-inch eight-track reel-to-reel, this record sounds like a remnant of the '60s acid folk faction. And even more than other contemporary torchbearers, like Animal Collective or collaborator Devendra Banhart, it has no mark of the present. It's completely ass-backward, but Feathers total non-cooperation with contemporary music production is charming. And ultimately the rear-guarded perspective doesn't alienate. Feathers drifts and darts like a firefly -- its movements, unrehearsed and instantly mesmerizing. By the same token, the glow of these eight songs extinguishes nearly as fast as it ignites. But I don't think the point of this record is to get people humming the songs after their gone. Feathers are just visiting, shining their light for a few minutes, before they're gone as quick and inexplicably as they came.
multiple songs: [MySpace]
Folk / Rock
Surel, For My Good (Comin Atcha)
Has anyone coined the terms neo-gospel or R&G (as in "Rhythm & Gospel")? How about "geo-soul"? Those labels could be used to describe Surel and her debut For My Good. It's not straight "gospel" and, yet, it's not party or dance music. It's gospel with a chaser, a righteous mixture of the singer's belief system and spiritual viewpoint set to music you can groove to and melodies you can croon to. And it's a splendid effort, from the boot-stomping, devil-taunting "You Can't Have It" to the Temptations-flavored "Daddy's Little Girl" remix that turns "Papa was a rolling stone" into "Papa wasn't in the home". Skillfully, Surel appropriates the sounds and devices of secular music and reorients them to fit her message. Sure, it's been done before, but Surel's take on it is seamless, patterned after the so-called neo-soul movement with a voice that sounds most like Erykah Badu, particularly on the title track. Other solid numbers are the romantic "My Vow to You", the uplifting "Beyond My Faults", the funky "Pleasing", and "Gold". The album consists of 12 songs, plus the "Daddy's Little Girl" remix, and finishes just under 59 minutes.
Quentin B. Huff
multiple songs: [streaming]
Violins, Pink Water (Contraphonic)
You can't blame a band for emulating the Decemberists, but on Pink Water, Violins' attempts at it can distract attention from the band's own winning persona. Ringleader Michael Lyons drops plenty of Meloysian melodies and lyrics, occasionally to his own detriment (one cloying line, "Twin princesses sing incessantly," makes me grit my teeth and long for less shrill wordplay about the Duchess's luscious young girls), but over the course of a few listens the album reveals itself as a winning set of indie-pop confections, bandwagon-hopping or not. Lyons' literate verbal dexterity is quite impressive when it's not invested in showiness, and the band can go from twee to rocking out in a single song -- or in an opposite direction, as on "No Talent for he Infinite", which evolves from an AC/DC-style riff to an outro straight out of Pulp's "Common People". Perhaps best of all is the playfully perverse narrative of "Sophie and Pierre", which plays out like a more humane version of Neil LaBute's "The Shape of Things". A bloated eight-minute bonus jam-track adds little, but these concise, witty, hook-filled songs overcome their first-impression doldrums to pull Violins into the category of upstarts with real potential.
"The Two Simonas": [MP3]
"Sophie and Pierre": [MP3]
multiple songs: [MySpace]
The Remote, Too Low to Miss (GU Music)
Eighties synthpop, we've got no more time for you. Our new synth heroes have all moved on –- The Knife into 'haunted' electro-house; Goldfrapp into voluptuous electro-sex; Roysopp into blessed-out electro-ice. So, the Remote, if you give us straight, slow synths, Pete Shelley from the Buzzcocks-esque vocals, and melodies that try a tad too hard to be nonchalant, we just mightn't respond the same way we once did. With a tad more rock, the Remote could be Interpol; with more dance, maybe Underworld. Instead, here's the "Closer"-like industrial dance-beat, twiddled vocal line of "Creeps"; or the Grand Nationalisms of "Please Change Your Mind". Pleasant stuff, sure, but nothing revolutionary.
multiple songs: [MySpace]
.: posted by Editor 7:17 AM